Richard Herring wonders what happened to the vision of the future as experienced by one Marty McFly
Friday 3 Jan 2014
I can’t believe it’s 2014! Can you? That suddenly sounds like a very futuristic year to be living in. I know it’s odd, as 2014 is only one more than 2013 and that didn’t take me by surprise. But now I feel like I am living in a sci-fi future dystopia and a pretty disappointing one at that.
Maybe it’s because we’re now only one year away from the year Marty McFly travelled to in Back To The Future II. That seemed like the distant future back in the 1980s but now it’s almost upon us and we should all be feeling embarrassed that we’ve failed to live up to its prophecies.
We’ve got 12 months to invent a hoverboard or we’re going to look pretty stupid. And we’re going to have to pull our fingers out if we’re going to be living in a society that no longer needs roads by this time next January. The real challenge might be to repopularise the fax machine. Future Marty McFly has about three of them in his house (that’s how people get fired in 2015).
In 1985, we had all kind of visions of what the 21st century would be like and yet none of them have come true. It’s not just the total lack of land-based hover travel. I also assumed we’d all be dressed in silver clothes by now but I’m still in boring old non-silver jeans, T-shirts and jumpers.
My meals, while not as stodgy and unpleasant as 1980s food, are still resolutely not in pill form. This is the worst non-development of all. Back in the 20th century we were obsessed with the idea that meals would be replaced by pills, as if all the time spent shovelling actual food into our face-holes was somehow being wasted. Meals would only take seconds and would become solitary affairs, giving us more time to fly around in our hover cars and holiday on Moonbase Alpha.
Instead, with all those hours frittered away cooking stuff in microwaves and chewing and digesting, we’re stuck on planet Earth, with our most exciting new invention being the Ronco Battery Tester.
And where are the sentient robots that have turned evil and attempted to destroy humanity? Nowhere to be seen. The nearest we’ve got is those self-checkout machines in supermarkets and they can’t even evaporate you with a laser gun when you put an unexpected item in the bagging area, so I can’t see them taking over the world. Although maybe they’re playing the long game and trying to frustrate us with their basic uselessness so we all kill ourselves.
The future is not living up to expectations. In his book The Shape Of Things To Come, published in 1933, HG Wells confidently predicted that in the future everything would be triangular but hardly anything is. And where are the talking chimpanzees who will one day take over the world, make humans their slaves and bury the Statue of Liberty in some sand?
I’ve been really looking forward to being transported between two pods that are in very close proximity and then turning into a fly-man creature. But all science has achieved is putting an ear on a mouse’s back and that’s hardly a substitute. We haven’t even put a man on Uranus, which all my schoolmates were confidently predicting would have happened by now.
So can I put out a plea that we invest all our 2014 resources in hoverboard technology and time travel (and silver fabric paint)? Then we can show the people of the 1980s we haven’t let them down.
Richard Herring’s show, We’re All Going To Die!, is touring nationally until April. For tickets and details, visit www.richardherring.com